Monthly Archives: July 2017

Photo by Ihor Malytskyi on Unsplash

Cara Barret, A Voice for Women in Horology

In a recent interview with The New York Times for their Men’s Style section, Hodinkee writer Cara Barrett answers questions about what it’s like being a woman in the world of wristwatches. With the website’s readership almost exclusively male, it presents an interesting question about why watch collecting seems to be a male-dominated activity.

In the interview, Barrett shares the experience of receiving backlash for referring to a 36 millimeter Rolex Oyster Perpetual timepiece as a woman’s watch based on its case size. The idea that anyone would take offense to an inanimate object being labeled as such sounds archaic, especially considering the fact that blog readers tend to be younger and ostensibly more nuanced than those who read the paper. However, it seems that the views of these blog commenters fall more in line with baby boomers than millennials.

It is no secret that watchmakers cater their sales and marketing toward men. Most of their offerings for women are shiny jewelry pieces with limited complications and maximum bling. While they hire female brand ambassadors, like Lindsey Vonn shown above wearing a blinged-out yellow gold Day-Date, they are always outnumbered by their male counterparts. You may see one of these women wearing a wristwatch model marketed to men, but even that can cause rumblings on forums and comment threads from men dubbing the model too feminine.

Barrett also comments about the lack of female executives in the watchmaking industry, something that I can attest to after reviewing annual reports from leaders in the Swiss watchmaking industry. This is something that is true across many industries, though, even those that sell products designed and marketed for women. The same can be said about minorities represented on these executive boards, too.

The conclusion I have come to about the lack of women represented in the world of horology is that it is simply a matter of positioning. There is no incentive for these companies to strive for gender equality in their advertising campaigns because doing so will alienate the part of their current customer base that doesn’t believe that women are in fact equal to men.

With the industry trying to recover from a steep decline in sales over the past few years, these companies will likely continue to only make room for sexy supermodels and female athletes that act as little more than cheerleaders for their brands because giving their products macho appeal will result in a higher return on investment. However, watch geeks like Cara Barrett make the future of watch collecting more inclusive by the simple virtue of establishing a voice for women in the industry.

thanks for the help, motherfucker

Thanks for the Help, Motherfucker

American actor, writer, director and stand up comic Louis C.K. appeared on Conan recently wearing what looks like a Rolex Explorer Reference 1016, a departure from the Submariner he usually wears for television appearances. As the story goes, the Submariner was a gift from fellow comedian Chris Rock for C.K.’s help with comedy writing. The story was told to Jerry Seinfeld on an episode his show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

Louis C.K. was born in Washington DC, then moved with his family to Mexico before returning to the US at age seven to settle down in Boston with his family. His parents would eventually divorce and he and his three sisters were raised by his single mother. His career in standup started in Boston in 1985, when he bombed for the first time. He wouldn’t take the stage again for another two years, but by 1989 he was opening for Jerry Seinfeld and living in Manhattan. His comedy career took off in the nineties and by the end of the decade he was writing for television and directing independent films.

In 2006 his show Lucky Louie premiered on HBO. A sitcom based on a realistic approach to family drama filmed before a live studio audience, the series was canceled after only one season. In 2009, he developed Louie for FX. He wrote, directed, edited and starred in this series, cutting pieces of his standup into hilarious scenes written to reflect the events of his actual life as a divorced father living and working in Manhattan. Louie ran through 2015, with no decision as to whether it will come back after a hiatus. C.K. has also worked to develop other comedy series for television, including the Zach Galifianakis led comedy, Baskets.

As far as watches go, C.K. has been seen wearing the Chris Rock Submariner Date for his show and photo shoots. It is said that the watch is inscribed with the words “Thanks for the help, Motherfucker” as a hilarious token of gratitude from Rock. C.K. has also been seen wearing other watches, most recently the 1016 Rolex Explorer. His appearance on Conan, a show he used to write for, has garnered attention due to the political nature of his comments. It has also piqued the interest of watch collectors due to the Explorer model on his wrist.

The Explorer 1016 was manufactured from the 1960s through the 1980s and features a beautiful and legible display. This understated Rolex model is a favorite amongst collectors, based in part on its simplicity and classic 36 millimeter case diameter. While the watchmaker is known more for the bells and whistles on other models, like the Cerachrom bezel on the new Daytona or the innovative complication of the Sky-Dweller, the Explorer rounds out their professional collection as the least complicated and most symmetrical professional model.

For more information on the 1016 model, check out this report from Hodinkee’s Ben Clymer published in GQ a few years back. Check out the Rolex Submariner on the watchmaker’s official website.

apple wearables vs rolex

Will Apple Smartwatches Ever Overshadow Rolex Wristwatches?

Over the past few days I have come across several reports stating that Apple smartwatches brought in $1.5 Billion more revenue than Rolex wristwatches in their first year of sales. The reason for the comparison seems to be a response to those who consider the launch of the Apple Watch a failure in comparison to the launch of the iPhone in 2007.

While I consider the iPhone revolutionary and rely on Apple products in a personal and professional capacity, I don’t think Apple smartwatches have the potential to render mechanical wristwatches obsolete and I reject the premise of comparing Apple to Rolex.

The first time I heard the word ‘smartwatch’ I was immediately reminded of the watch Dick Tracy used as a two way radio in the comic and 1990 film staring Warren Beatty. The fictional character lived in a time with no mobile phones or Internet access, making the functionality of his watch seem futuristic and innovative. At Baselworld 2016, reality caught up with fiction, with many Swiss watchmakers featuring smartwatch models alongside their traditional mechanical watch models.

No smartwatch has permeated the watch market as much as the Apple Watch, though. This follows logic, as Apple is one of the most successful companies in the world with huge name recognition and a track record of innovation in the tech industry. The smartwatch was also their first product launch after the death of Steve Jobs, marking the beginning of a new era for the company under current CEO Tim Cook.

While haters will always be a part of the ecosystem, it is hard to argue that the Apple Watch is a failure. Aside from developing revolutionary tech innovations, Apple does an amazing job with marketing and advertising and this is evident in their financial success. However, the theory that the success of a product like the Apple Watch would affect the bottom line of a company like Rolex doesn’t hold water with me.

Like Apple, Rolex is a company founded by a visionary – Hans Wilsdorf in this case – that focuses on building upon its own success to bring the past into the future with innovations that fulfill both the needs and desires of their customers. Rolex has a long list of innovations in the mechanical watch industry going back a hundred years.

The main difference between the two companies is the nature of their products. Rolex is a company that manufactures luxury mechanical wristwatches and Apple’s focus is on consumer electronics. The Apple Watch is the first time the tech giant and the luxury watchmaker have seen any overlap in their product offerings. However, this overlap does not necessarily mean that the companies are competing for customers.

The customer profile for the Apple Watch differs greatly from that of a Rolex wristwatch. While the Apple Watch incorporates communications technology that may be enticing to someone who wants to stay connected at all times, it also deters those who find receiving a constant stream of updates and notifications distracting.

There are also those who are reluctant to look at yet another digital screen throughout the day. Those same customers would also have an issue with being forced to update their smartwatches every few years to access updated features and operating systems the same way they do with their smartphones.

What a Rolex customer is looking for is a classic luxury timepiece that is reliable, requires little maintenance, lasts for years and looks great on their wrist. The status associated with the Rolex brand is also a determining factor in the purchase decision. Rolex has been around longer than anyone who actually wears their watches and their legacy adds a value to their products that goes beyond technology and innovation.

A proper comparison for a Rolex would be another luxury watchmaker like Omega or Panerai. Likewise, the Apple Watch should be compared to other smartwatches on the market that compete at similar price points, like those manufactured by Samsung. It may be tempting to compare industry leaders like Apple and Rolex to prove a point about the legitimacy of smartwatches in the luxury watch market, but only time will tell if smartwatch sales figures are inflated by their novelty more so than their potential to decimate the mechanical watch industry.